Tolkien’s newly-discovered Christmas poem

6636682381_df5f18dd00_oA Christmas poem written by J. R. R. Tolkien was recently discovered.  Entitled “Noel,” Tolkien wrote it in 1936  for a Catholic girls’ school, which printed it in the school yearbook.  Scholars stumbled upon it last year.

The poem is quite lovely, with Tolkienesque imagery combined with a strong theme of Incarnation.  I’m not sure of its copyright status, so I’ll just link to it here.


Photo by NerdPatrol.  Creative Commons License.

HT:  Mary Moerbe

“That’s Christmas”

young-boy-83171_640Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke writes about how when he was a kid Christmas was hugely exciting, but that it has gotten even better now that he is older.

He writes about that, focusing on “a series of moments before, during and after Dec. 25 that make you stop and think: ‘That — that right there — is Christmas.'”

Read what he is referring to after the jump.

What are the moments that make YOU reflect, “that’s Christmas”? [Read more…]

The tragedies behind “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

Henry_Wadsworth_Longfellow_by_Thomas_Buchanan_Read_IMG_4414Let me just let Jim Priest, writing in the Daily Oklahoman, tell it:

As Christmas carols were sung and Christmas bells rung, Henry thought back on two tremendous tragedies. His loving wife, Frances, had been fatally burned in an accident in their own home. His son, Charles, had been severely wounded in the war.

When Frances was caught up in a fire, Henry attempted to smother the flames by throwing his arms around her. He only succeeded in severely burning himself on his face, arms and hands. He was so ill from his own burns, he could not attend his wife’s funeral. He was obliged to grow a beard because he was unable to shave his burn scarred face.

Henry’s son, Charles, was the unfortunate victim of a war bullet. Permanently disabled, Henry had to care for Charles’ day-to-day needs. His double dose of death and disability blanketed Henry with despair.

At Christmas, Henry wrote in his journal, “How inexpressibly sad are all holidays. I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace.”

A year later at Christmas, he was still mourning when he wrote, “A merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me.”

Finally, the following year at Christmas, Henry decided to pour out his jumbled emotions on paper. But instead of penning an entry in his journal, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put pen to poetry and wrote the well-recognized Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day.”

After the jump, you can read the poem that turned into a beloved Christmas carol.

[Read more…]

Theological music for Christmas

Ken Myers has written a wonderful post on Christmas music, emphasizing particularly how it is sung by choirs and its connection to worship in the liturgy.  He includes a fascinating discussion of how music can be a contemplation of divine mysteries, as in the harmonies of this piece, “Mirabile mysterium” to this text:

“A wondrous mystery is declared today, an innovation is made upon nature; God is made man; that which he was, he remains, and that which he was not, he takes on, suffering neither commixture nor division.”

The composer is Jacob Handl (sometimes called “Gallus”), not to be confused with George Friedrich Handel.  Read what Myers says about it after the jump.

[Read more…]

The Christmas stories of Connie Willis & her favorite Christmas movies

Connie Willis, MiracleConnie Willis is an award-winning science fiction author and a deft satirist of contemporary foibles.  (Read her novel Bellwether.  Never again will you take seriously fashions, trends, or being cool.)  She is also a Christian.  (For more on her biography, go here.)

She has published a collection of short stories about Christmas–gift idea!–entitled Miracles and Other Christmas Stories.   I’m reading them as part of my Advent and Christmas observance and enjoying them greatly.  Some of them are of the Miracle on 34th Street-type warm-hearted type, only funnier, others are darker but thought-provoking, and some are about the True Meaning of Christmas.

Also of value in that volume is her introduction, in which she discusses the genre and gives her favorite Christmas stories. She then discusses Christmas movies.  After a gentle critique of It’s a Wonderful Life and an illuminating reading of said Miracle on 34th Street, she gives her favorite movies, most of which you will probably never have heard of.  So we dug up three of them that I’ll tell you about after the jump. [Read more…]

Cancelling church on Christmas

Trinity_Lutheran_Church,_Friedheim,_Missouri_altar,_Dec_20,_2013Christmas falls on a Sunday this year.  So once again, many congregations are CANCELLING SERVICES!  That boggles my mind.  You should go to church on Christmas even when it doesn’t fall on a Sunday!  But when it does, why wouldn’t you go to church as you usually would?

OK, I understand about opening presents, making the Christmas dinner, and all that.  I understand someone missing church, though that’s not to condone it.  But what I cannot understand is a church that would not open its doors on Christmas day, that would not worship Christ on the commemoration of His birth.

I guess this practice is more common than I realized.  I’ve heard the reason given that Christmas is a family time, so we are going to be “worshipping” by spending time with our families.  But that’s just more secularizing of the holiday.  Maybe someone can explain it to me.

UPDATE:  Here is a defense of the practice, one that slams us critics.  Do you find it convincing?  I guess the big difference is one of theology.  The defense portrays worship as something we do–hard work that we sometimes need a break from–with little sense of what we receive when we worship or of Christ actually being present when we worship.

After the jump, Jonathan Aigner, gives 8 reasons NOT to cancel church services on Christmas.

Just as it’s important to keep Christ in Christmas, it’s important to keep “mass” in Christmas.  In fact, doing the latter is the best way to do the former.

[Read more…]